There are a number of easy steps to take and products to use to increase the effectiveness of your winter hair care regimen and maintaining healthy hair. Before moving on to a number of other pending posts (I know I know, thank you for your patience, you are truly appreciated), I thought I would share some thoughts on the use of oil for our tresses especially during winter. What I know for sure and what I continue to learn is that increasing your use of natural oil can greatly help maintain the good health of your hair as well as increase the protection and overall care of each strand. Natural pure oils can be used for ALL HAIR. Natural pure oils can be combined with each other allowing for your own mix taking advantage of the various oil properties. Various oils are present and mixed into various hair care products for example shampoo and some people find this sufficient for their hair and that's okay. There are different grades and variations (first press and refined etc.) of oil and there are also various ready mixed oils in the market. In most cases oils can be cleansed easily from the hair and a really super point to note is that it is not just your hair strands that benefit from the use of oil but your SCALP as well. Another key point is that oil is not moisture - always ensure your hair is properly moiturised (with water) before using oil (unless you are using the oil as a prepoo or treatment and will wash your hair after anyway).
In the beginning of my hair journey and trying to understand the science behind the LOC method (Liquid. Oil. Cream), the fact that oil and water do not mix and putting an oil before a water based cream didn't sit quite right with me. I preferred the LCO method of maintaining moisture in my hair but then I looked into the properties of the various natural oils out there, specifically the Penetrating and Sealing/Coating properties of oil. Now, some years into this journey, LOC makes a lot more sense depending on what oil you use (according to me). If you use a penetrating oil then doing LOC may be all good and fine and when you know which oil is more penetrating than sealing and vic versa then you can even do OLOC, LOCOS or LOOC or LCOO. (it will also do well to know if the C in your layering process is water based or oil based as some butters will then be okay to take up the position of the O and the C as well as the S.(S meaning sealing). (reading about oils and hydrophobia on hair will take your learning to deeper heights (o:) I still prefer LCO as a basis. Before I loose you talking about the methods lets get back to discussing Oil.
Above curtesy of http://lilylacurly.wix.com/curlyaunaturel#!The-truth-about-oils/c1rfl/55e2e99b0cf29a3653bbdeed
Various Oils have various properties but for this post I will specifically focus on Penetrating and Sealing. Also note that essential oils are more concentrated than base oils therefore great to incorporate in any oil mix as they must be mixed with a base oil. There are also benefits in using nut based oils vs plant based oil, saturated vs unsaturated - sooooo much knowledge to absorb and learn. Start simple and work from there.
Penetrating oils have the ability to penetrate the hair shaft or soak into the hair (in varying degrees) and can bind with the moisture and or protein present in the shafts. Penetrating oils include but are not limited to (in varying degrees of strength to penetrate):
- Coconut Oil (high degree of penetration)
- Sunflower Oil (high)
- Babbasu Oil ((high)
- Olive Oil (medium-high)
- Avocado Oil (medium - high)
- Canola Oil (medium - high)
Interestingly penetrating oils will not necessary give a high shine or gloss to the hair and the longer you leave the oil there for pre-poos and treatments, the longer time it has to seep in. If you are looking for a penetrating treatment, then it is said that it is best to apply the relevant oils on DRY hair. (makes sense)
Above curtesy of: http://www.nenonatural.com/hair-blog/the-best-oil-for-natural-hair-a-mega-summary I like the information on shelf life given,
Coating/sealing oils have the ability (in varying degrees) to seal in the moisture present in the hair strands and will help hold the moisture there without creating a permanent barrier that prevents remoisturisation..
- Castor Oil
- Grapeseed Oil
- Jojoba Oil
- Sweet Almond (sometimes seen as a penetrating oil)
- Can be mixed with the oils mentioned above
In winter the following can be done more regularly with Oil
Treatment - Hot Oil Treatment
Harness the power of penetrating oils for your hot oil treatment. (you can also use other oils) I just think if you know the properties of the oils then you can make the most of the ones you use especially for this process. You can mix your oils and mix a penetrating base oil with a few drops of an essential oil. You can mix your penetrating oil with any other oils you may have making sure the penetrating oil is the most in your mix.
Winter is also a good time to start co-washing if you don't co-wash already (with a product that says Co-Wash not with just any and all conditioners - in my opinion) and if you are not using heavy butters etc. You can pre-poo to further protect your hair if you will be using a sulfate free shampoo so that there is enough oils still left in your hair after your wash.You can pre-poo overnight - the day before you wash your hair or you can prep-poo for an hour or more before you wash (I have done a hot oil treatment on dry hair before washing and felt like it was a form of pre-poo). Pre-poo just means saturating your hair in oil and letting the oils work and sit in the hair prior to washing your hair with either a co-wash or a shampoo.(if you naturally have oily hair then I don't see any harm in doing a hot oil treatment rather than pre-poos and some oils such as Cedar essential oil will benefit both an oily and a dry scalp). Try, watch and get to know what your hair likes and does not like. This is also an area of overlap for me where an Oil pre-poo and hot oil treatment can be considered more or less the same thing if done before shampooing and if heat is used. Alternate between the two. Hot oil treatments give you room to play and mix various oils whereas pre-poos give the opportunity to best harness penetrating oils.
Stimulation (and Soothing) of the scalp even when in protective styles
Gently rubbing and massaging the scalp daily or every 2 to 3 days can also help with hair maintenance and GROWTH whether your hair is in a protective style or not. Best to harness the power of oil mixes with oils that offer/stimulation and growth (peppermint oil or grape seed oil or lavender essential oil) and are best for scalp care (jojoba oil is the closest oil to the oil your scalp naturally produces so it would make sense to use it for your scalp). You can also rub as much oil into the scalp as an overnight treatment before you wash the next day. It is said to use heavier oils over night and this make sense as it gives the oil time to work its wonders and you have the option to rinse it out the next day where needed. Another good thing is that your hair does not look as oily the next day if you decide not to rinse.
Detangling - oils can be mixed with conditioners and/or water or applied on their own on damp hair to help detangle the hair.
Sealing of Moisture in the Hair - all oils, coating oils and heavier oils can be utilised during winter and any time year round to seal and protect the moisture in your hair strands. Concentrate on your ends - the oldest par of your hair strands. Oils can also be mixed with natural butters and other hair care maintenance products and then applied to one's hair.
- Don't over do it - everything in moderation
- Don't use too much sealing/heavy butters - you don't want to encourage product build up and as already mentioned always ensure that the hair is properly moisturised before applying these.
There is loads of information out there on the properties of oils and what oils to use best for whatever need or requirement you may have. Research and find what works for you. You can find pure natural oils in many health stores/local pharmacies as well as Dischem and Clicks and online sources such as Faithful To Nature and Nubian Child. (always check ingredients - ideally there should just be one ingredient listed). Many hair care brands also make their own oil blends and mixes highlighting certain oil properties depending on what oils they have mixed. Not everything is a hair growth miracle - know your ingredients or at least check that what is being said is true. (sometimes its the action such as rubbing the scalp rather than the product that will help with hair growth). As mentioned there are various grades and qualities of oil and some are not in their purest form. I often go with the dark glass bottles/containers as being of a higher quality than the plastic clear containers and I choose good brands that specialize in high quality oils (not always the case though) but thats just me. (sunlight can alter the properties of an oil so be wary of how you store them and also from where you buy them). Keep it simple and enjoy incorporating oil into your hair care regimen.
As always listen to your hair.
Sources of knowledge:
- The Science of Black Hair Book